6

LaTeX generates the traditional textual footnote symbols (LaTeX uses the following sequence: ∗ † ‡ § ¶ ∥ ∗∗ †† ‡‡) as math symbols. Why? And why do all of these symbols have separate textual and math symbols variants?

\documentclass{article}

\renewcommand*{\thefootnote}{\fnsymbol{footnote}}


\begin{document}

Text.\footnote{Hi.} Text.\footnote{Hi.} Text.\footnote{Hi.} %
Text.\footnote{Hi.} Text.\footnote{Hi.} Text.\footnote{Hi.} %
Text.\footnote{Hi.} Text.\footnote{Hi.} Text.\footnote{Hi.}

\textasteriskcentered\textdagger\textdaggerdbl\textsection\textparagraph\textbardbl%
  \textsuperscript{%
    \textasteriskcentered\textdagger\textdaggerdbl\textsection\textparagraph\textbardbl}

\(*\dagger\ddagger\mathsection\mathparagraph\|%
  ^{*\dagger\ddagger\mathsection\mathparagraph\|}\)

\end{document}

I can see a justification for the separation of * and \textasteriskcentered, but what about the other symbols?

Here two thoughts:

  • I suspect this might have to do with spacing. Spacing is important for "*" and "∥" in math, but I do not see why the other symbols cannot simply be textual glyphs: they are normally not used as mathematical symbols.
  • Superscript placement in math mode can be variable. Some people will argue that footnote markers should not be used directly within mathematical material, but using math mode symbols means at least that anyone defining footnote-related macros needs to make sure that the vertical placement of these symbols is consistent and appropriate; intuitively it seems this should be easier to do with purely textual definitions, but it's best if someone else fills in the details and gives pros or cons.
6

It would be better not to use math, but in the beginning (LaTeX 2.0x) these were only available in the math fonts and LaTeX2.09 accessed them in the direct way just switching to math locally and using the math commands rather than loading the math font as a text font.

LaTeX2e was developed at a transitional period with the TS1 text companion encoding (and later Unicode fonts of course) making dagger and similar symbols available in text fonts but compatibility and available fonts meant there were limits in how far such "hidden" uses of math could be removed in the base format.

The fixltx2e package redefines the footnote symbol sequence to use text versions of the symbols.

  • I'm wondering which other symbols are affected in the same way. Now that I'm looking at the LaTeX source, there are also \mathdollar and \mathsterling, which would certainly be unusual in a pure math context, though I can imagine them appearing in an accounting context (unlike some of the doubly-defined footnote marks). Finally, there might be other doubly-defined symbols where the double definition is well-justified. – Lover of Structure Jun 27 '13 at 8:04
  • And there is the pair (\textdiv,\div), but these don't appear in latex.ltx. – Lover of Structure Dec 5 '13 at 17:36

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